1 Timothy 3:16 seems like a pretty straightforward knock-out punch for Trinitarianism.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh[.]" (KJB)

How do Biblical Unitarians, who hold Jesus is not God but also hold to a strong view of scripture, explain this verse?

  • This isn't the question you're asking, but: there are also some non-trinitarian denominations who believe that Jesus is God--Oneness Pentecostals, for example. I imagine they wouldn't have any trouble explaining this verse in its KJB version either.
    – DLosc
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


Anyone could explain the apparent paradox by noting the biased translation used. As many understand today, the King James Bible is peppered with error and infusion of poor/wrong translation. Not being a true translation at all really, but an adaptation of previously released translations with selective interpretation to satisfy the King's demands.

James gave the translators instructions intended to ensure that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology, and reflect the episcopal structure, of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy. (Wiki.)

With a cursory glance at other bibles, most list 'he' or 'Christ' which is acceptable.

“he.” There are some Greek manuscripts that read, “God appeared in the flesh.” This reading of some Greek manuscripts has passed into some English versions, and the King James Version is one of them. Trinitarian scholars admit, however, that these Greek texts were altered by scribes in favor of the Trinitarian position. The reading of the earliest and best manuscripts is not “God” but rather “he who.” Almost all the modern versions have the verse as “the mystery of godliness is great, which was manifest in the flesh,” or some close equivalent. BU comm. 1Tim.

Continuing to show the proof-texting methodology employed to use a biased text to proclaim mistruth.

When properly translated, 1 Timothy 3:16 actually argues against the Trinity. It all fits with what we know of the man, Jesus Christ. If Jesus were God, this section of Scripture would have been the perfect place to say so. Instead of saying that “he was made known in the flesh,” we would expect to see some phrase such as, “God was incarnate,” or “God came in the flesh,” or “he came as true God and true man,” etc. But nothing like that occurs. Instead, the section testifies to what non-Trinitarians believe—that Jesus was a man, begotten by the Father, and that he was taken up into glory. BU comm. 1Tim.

The various claims noted in the verse can not be referring to God anyway. Such is the agenda of altering one word, when it then makes no contextual sense as is often noted with biased translation.

Beyond question, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. 1Tim 3:16 NASB

  • vindicated in the spirit,
  • seen by angels,
  • taken up in glory.

All these can only apply to Jesus and cannot apply to God.

  • What do we make of the 'mystery'? Isn't this obviously the mystery of the incarnation? Jul 25, 2022 at 3:40
  • Obviously according to some! But that would be another Q - I'm already 'burned' on this one lol! It's a toss-up between 3in1's or KJV devotees who are dv-ing the sourced answer of the asked Q.
    – steveowen
    Jul 25, 2022 at 3:45
  • Ya, I know. It's pretty juvenile stuff. Alas! Jul 25, 2022 at 14:19
  • 1
    I personally think the theological conclusions in this answer go too far, and it might be improved by adding the phrase "Biblical Unitarians believe" in a couple places. But the core of the answer is sound and directly answers the question. +1.
    – DLosc
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:52

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